© Ray Cross
A properly functioning Deacons Board is essential to the wellbeing of a church. Problems arise when deacons do not shoulder their responsibility to lead in accordance with divine guidance and in cooperation with their pastor.
It is essential that deacons recognize that their role is to work with their pastor under his leadership to direct the matters of the church. Scripturally, though chosen by the church, they do not represent the church but the pastor. As long as the pastor is leading responsibly as a man of God it is their role to protect him, assist him with the decision making process and help to implement the plans and programs decided under the pastor’s guidance.
Deacons should recognize that their pastor has spent years in preparation for his role and almost every waking hour is spent in continuing education, earnest effort and prayer to God for guidance. To the pastor, the life, health and development of the church is not the part time concern that it is to deacons. For deacons, therefore, to set themselves on an equal footing with the pastor, or set themselves as supervisors of the pastor or as the loyal opposition to the pastor neutralizes his leadership and training, thereby damaging the church, its health and its future prospects, as well as discouraging the pastor. As one doctor stated it on a wall plaque: “The success of your treatment depends on which one of us is the doctor.” Likewise, the success of a church ministry depends on which one of us is the pastor—the one trained and called of God and the congregation to be so, or untrained laypersons.
Deacons may not only impede progress by disregarding or defying the pastor, they may also do so by knowingly or unknowingly failing to fulfill their role with godly wisdom and discretion.
Sometimes deacons back off from tough decisions or push them forward in the hopes that the need will go away on its own. Such cowardice is rarely rewarded. Usually it wears down a pastor or exposes him to unnecessary dangers and abuse. Sometimes deacons are unable to make decisions on their own, so one deacons meeting will expose the need for a decision, which they will defer until the next meeting. Between that meeting and the next they will go home and discuss the matter with their wife or some other person, then return to the next meeting to express the opinion of that non-deacon contributor. In this manner, I discovered in one church I pastured that deacon decision making was almost completely controlled by their wives and others in the congregation who had not been elected to the Board. Other problems have arisen from deacons sharing among the congregation opinions expressed during discussion which were grist for the decision making process but were not adopted and approved by the Board. By doing this they created upset in the congregation for things that never were the policy of the Board or of the Church, and put a specific deacon on the spot for an opinion he thought had been expressed in the confidence of discussion within the Board.
Many of these problems may be reduced if deacons keep in confidence the proceedings of the Board. Surprisingly, it cannot be assumed that they are aware of the need for this. For this reason I created the following Deacon Confidentiality document that I required all deacons to subscribe to, and to which I held them accountable.
© Ray Cross
Confidentiality concerning Deacons Meeting proceedings is not required because what we do is secret but because it is often at the cutting edge of policy and of personal issues that are sensitive.
What should come from Deacons’ Meetings is one voice of spiritual guidance and decision making. Discussing Deacons Meeting proceedings outside of the Board destroys this, disturbs churches and damages the people you share it with.
Discussing Deacons Meeting proceedings with non-deacons:
1. Demands of others that they keep private what you, as a deacon, have not been able to keep.
2. Defrauds people by allowing them to listen in on discussions they couldn’t contribute to. If they feel strongly about an issue they may be left with anger because they were left out or they may try to manipulate the Deacon to pursue their preferences.
3. May introduce unseen controllers into proceedings.
4. Discloses opinions of individuals shared along the way to decisions:
· This may cause hurt to that individual who shared with the understanding he was contributing in confidence to the decision making process, with the understanding that the decision only would be made public.
· Such disclosure of private opinions may put a damper on the free exchange of opinions in the Board meetings, hindering Board effectiveness.
· Opinions of individual deacons may be interpreted as representing the Board as a whole.
· Airing differences of opinion from Board discussions may create the illusion of lack of unity in the Board. (The fact we disagree is no lack of unity as long as we move together and are perceived as doing so.)
· Discussing Deacons Meetings proceedings before children may sour them to church life by exposing them to unnecessary adult issues, especially if strong emotions accompany the disclosure.
BREAKING DEACON CONFIDENTIALITY PRODUCES NO GOOD, ONLY DAMAGE:
· to people.
· to relationships.
· to churches.
· to the Lord’s work.
The decision to take matters beyond the Board for consideration in other quarters should be agreed to by the Board, otherwise Board discussions are confidential, even from our spouses.